On March 21, 2017, a Phoenix, Arizona police motorcycle was hit by a Tesla vehicle. According to published reports in the Arizona Republic, the Tesla vehicle was working in autopilot mode at the time of the incident.
What Happened in the crash?
Published reports claim the driver of the Tesla and an on-duty police officer on a motorcycle exited Black Canyon Freeway and got on Utopia Road. The police officer, who was riding in front of the Tesla, stopped for a red light.
However, the Tesla vehicle didn’t seem to detect the presence of the motorcycle in front of it, and it continued to roll on the road. The police officer noticed the incoming Tesla and managed to leap off the motorcycle before the impact. The Tesla car did hit the motorcycle, but the car was only going 3 mph so there was no damage to both vehicles.
So far, Tesla authorities have said that they have yet to receive an official report on the incident. Police officials have also confirmed that because the collision was so minor that it caused no injuries and it didn’t even damage any vehicle, there would be no further investigation on the matter.
The Problem with the Autopilot Feature
More and more cars these days are incorporating autopilot modes and features in their latest vehicles. This is a good thing, from a driver assistance point of view. Just like ABS and automatic transmission, this latest technological development can help improve driver and passenger safety.
The drawback to this feature is the use of the term “autopilot”. It seems to imply that there’s no need for driver at all. It’s as if even if there’s a person behind the wheel, that person can spend the whole ride playing with their mobile devices and watching videos instead of watching the road.
That’s why Tesla has now begun to emphasize the fact that this feature is only party autonomous and that there is still a need for a human driver that’s ultimately in charge. The driver can let the car drive itself, but the driver should also be prepared to take charge at any moment the autopilot fails.
This is what happened in a Florida car crash in May of 2016. A huge truck turned into the path of the car, but both the autopilot feature and the human driver did not notice it. In this case, the autopilot feature was cleared from blame by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
Do You Own an Autonomous Car?
If you happen to drive a car with an autopilot feature, or have been involved in a car accident in which the other car is autonomous, it is recommended that you consult a lawyer who specializes in automobile product liability cases.
It is certainly possible that the autonomous car was launched and sold before it has been fully and properly tested. “Beta testing” new technology with actual customers is now common in many industries. Sadly, the consequences of improperly tested cars are too great when it comes to the potential loss of life.